The CINA Center is four years old, the first DHS Center of Excellence was formed 17 years ago, DHS is almost 19 years old, and our constitution was written 234 years ago…and crime and conflict have been with us since before recorded history. Most of life’s valuable lessons are learned the hard way, so what have we learned over those years? Since the country’s founding, we’ve learned that it is hard to get on top and even harder to stay there, but that is definitely the position you want to be in. Preparation, long-term thinking, and a lot of hard work are necessary, but the benefits to our citizens, the world at large, and future generations are immeasurable. Since the middle of the last century, and especially since 2001, we’ve learned that power must be augmented with imagination and creativity. The threats we have been facing, and will continue to face, are increasingly asymmetric, dynamic, and lightning-quick. Gone are the days of assessing the threat by locating your adversary’s tanks, planes, ships, and troops. Those things still matter, but the adversaries that will sneak in painful blows don’t have armor or large organized forces. Instead, they operate in the shadows, changing form and tactics as necessary, and striking or exploiting opportunities when convenient for them or when the right incentive is offered.
The Center’s mission, and our research portfolio based on that mission, is to apply the latest tools and techniques in creative and imaginative ways to discover and understand these asymmetric, shadowy, and dangerous threats to our citizens and our security. We work on teasing out the structure of criminal networks when we have scant information, guessing where connections and entities might be, even if we can’t see them yet. The results of these efforts support investigators, helping them to make sense of the data they do have, and pointing to where precious resources might be allocated to yield the greatest inferential value or greatest disruption of a criminal enterprise. The other great lesson from the last few decades is that we must continue to look over the horizon, think critically and objectively, and invest in the research and capabilities that will mitigate threats we have not yet seen. Staying on top means solving today’s challenges while also thinking about, and acting on, what’s next.